It doesn’t really matter that Michigan Wolverines athletic director Dave Brandon is saying all the correct things about his coach Brady Hoke. We all know that his last two seasons in Ann Arbor have been rather disappointing, and the Wolverine faithful expect a little more from a coach who took his team to and won the Sugar Bowl in 2011, his first year on the job. If Brady Hoke really wants to secure his position at Michigan and start climbing back up the national ladder, the Wolverines must make it to a “New Year’s Six” bowl this season.
For those of you who aren’t entirely certain what a New Year’s Six bowl game will be in the new college football playoff system, you’re not alone. Basically, there is a rotation of six bowls that will host the two national semi-final games each year, with the other four bowls bringing in the highest-ranked non-playoff teams from the following conferences or groups:
Rose Bowl – Big 10 No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 1
Sugar Bowl – SEC No. 1 vs. Big 12 No. 1
Orange Bowl – ACC No. 1 vs. SEC No. 2, Big 10 No. 2 or Notre DameChick-fil-A Bowl – at-large or “Group of Five”
Cotton Bowl - at-large or “Group of Five”
Fiesta Bowl – at-large or “Group of Five”
The reason I say the Wolverines have to make it to one of the above bowls is because it doesn’t entail a conference championship. Though I’m well aware of Brady Hoke’s No. 1 goal with the program, this accomplishment would suffice.
I’m not saying Hoke’s job is gone if he can’t make it to this point in the postseason. If Michigan beats Ohio State and Michigan State this year, it’d be very tough for him to take any sort of step back in the eyes of fans and probably even in the eyes of Dave Brandon. The priorities are pretty clear in Ann Arbor.
The greatest obstacle standing in front of Michigan this season is the Big 10′s East Division, which is absolutely loaded with talent. I think it’s likely that the team making it out of this division will be one of the four teams invited to a national semi-final game for a chance to compete for the national title. With teams like Ohio State and Michigan State, it’s tough to see the Wolverines escaping with this division in 2014.
That means Michigan’s best shot will likely be landing an at-large bid, which is very possible if it can put together a strong body of work in the East Division and take (at the very least) two of three games from Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. Ideally, you’d like to see wins over the Spartans and Buckeyes, but Michigan will have to impatiently wait for those to play out. And if both of those wins do come, it would mean Michigan is in the running for a Big 10 championship.
As mentioned earlier, this is not a make-or-break deal for Brady Hoke’s job because his security in Ann Arbor rests upon more than the postseason. Getting to a New Year’s Six bowl, though, would bolster this program back to where Hoke can feel completely safe with his job and get on to scaling that national ladder. Anything less than a New Year’s Six bowl, in my opinion, is a bust.